Attorney-general Costas Clerides did not do himself any favours with the way he handled the case of the senior attorney at his office Eleni Loizidou, exposed for her dealings with the Russian prosecutor-general’s office that went beyond the call of duty. Perhaps he misunderstood the gravity of the situation, which does not reflect well on his judgment.
The personal emails of Ms Loizidou regarding her communications with officials at the Russian prosecutor-general’s office, which were hacked and posted on a Russian website, created the impression she was employed by Moscow rather than the Cyprus Republic. Not only did she offer advice on how to deal with the Cyprus courts in her emails, she also criticised Cypriot state officials, such as the minister of justice and president of the Supreme Court as well as the police for placing obstacles to Russia’s extradition requests.
As one newspaper remarked, “she seemed to have been acting more as an employee of the Russian prosecution service than as a senior counsel of the Cyprus Republic,” something “which verged on the promotion of the interests of another state.” A read through the emails made public so far does nothing to dispel this view, Ms Loizidou’s main concern appearing to be the success of Russia’s extradition requests. Perhaps there are also emails in which she was not so slavishly obliging but these have not been made public.
Instead of announcing the immediate suspension of the attorney and the holding of an investigation, the first issue he raised in an announcement issued Monday was that this was a case of “probable theft of electronic communication.” There were emails that suggested his most senior attorney might have been promoting the interests of a foreign state and his main concern was that the emails were obtained illegally. Having perhaps realised that he had missed the real issue, he subsequently issued a second announcement saying that Ms Loizidou had been transferred to another department – not dealing with extraditions – and he would order a disciplinary investigation into the use of her private email account for official business. He also ordered a police investigation into the theft and publication of private emails.
Clerides had to change decision again on Tuesday when it was revealed that Ms Loizidou had also forwarded emails about extradition cases to him from her personal email account. In short, the Attorney-general was also involved and therefore his office was in no position to investigate the case. Clerides therefore requested that the Council of Ministers, which meets on Wednesday, appoint an investigator to look into the matter. What the remit of the investigator will be is not known but the Council of Ministers must avoid the temptation to limit the scope of the investigation as Clerides had attempted.